Dallas Cowboys’ Jaylon Smith took a lot of heat following the team’s latest loss
The 2-7 Dallas Cowboys lost their fourth game in a row on Sunday, falling to the 8-0 Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-19. The Cowboys had an opportunity to beat the undefeated Steelers, but some late-game defensive penalties cost Dallas the rare victory.
With the Cowboys up 19-15 heading into the fourth quarter, an illegal contact penalty on linebacker Jaylon Smith negated a fumble and recovery by Dallas. On the following play, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch would be called for unnecessary roughness, tacking on a 15-yard penalty to a 21-yard gain. The Steelers would hit a 43-yard field goal at the end of the drive, narrowing the score to 19-18, Dallas.
The Cowboys’ offense would be forced to punt on the following drive, leaving 4:11 on the clock and only having a one-point lead. On the next series, the Dallas defense appeared to stop the Steelers’ offense on a three and out. But, once again, a penalty by Jaylon Smith, this time for roughing the passer, would extend the drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron, giving Pittsburgh the 24-19 lead … and ultimately, the win.
Following the loss, Smith appeared to blame questionable calls rather than taking personal responsibility for those costly penalties during his postgame presser. And it was that apparent lack of accountability that seemed to rub analyst Isaiah Stanback the wrong way. Here’s what Stanback said during the Cowboys OT show via the Dallas Cowboys’ official YouTube channel on Sunday night.
"“Take some accountability … You hit somebody in the face, right? Regardless if it was soft or ticky-tack, the rules are the rules. You hit him in the face, that is called roughing the passer. Then you also had pass interference, he didn’t run into you. You hit the man after five yards and held on to him. So, take accountability. Don’t try to blame it on other people.”"
Stanback’s fellow analyst, Barry Church, echoed the same sentiments about Jaylon Smith’s comments. Church indicated he would have liked to have seen Smith take accountability as a defensive leader for his mistakes rather than pushing it off as a “whole team thing”.
Coming off his first Pro Bowl season last year, Smith is currently second in the NFL in total tackles with 89. He inked a five-year, $64 million contract extension just last August. But Smith’s play has come under fire ever since.
Last month, MMQB’s Albert Breer reported that it’s a well-established fact within the walls of the Cowboys’ facility that Smith hasn’t played up to his contract and is at the heart of big plays made against the Dallas defense. Breer would go on to say he wouldn’t be shocked if the team moved on from Jaylon after this year.
If the Cowboys are truly unhappy with Jaylon Smith’s play, the team could choose to bench him and go with veteran linebacker Sean Lee instead. Lee, who recently returned from Injured Reserve, could potentially start alongside Leighton Vander Esch against the Minnesota Vikings following the team’s bye week.
But it’s unlikely the Dallas Cowboys would make such a bold move as benching Jaylon Smith unless they believed their season was lost. And in that case, getting younger linebackers like Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard some much-needed experience would seem to be the better option.